PONTE VEDRA BEACH — A weekend filled with sharp words between Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia came down to one last showdown Sunday in the Players Championship, this one staged across the water in a tiny, intimidating section of TPC Sawgrass.
With the two tied for the lead with two holes to play, Woods kept his shots on land and made two pars. Garcia hit three balls into the water for a quadruple bogey-double bogey finish.
If there was special satisfaction in beating Garcia again — especially hours after Garcia had called Woods "not the nicest guy on tour'' in their latest volleying of unniceties — Woods kept that to himself. What mattered was having a chance to win, closing it out like he does so often, and capturing the richest prize on the PGA Tour for the first time in a dozen years.
"We just go out there and play," Woods said. "I had an opportunity to win the golf tournament when I was tied for the lead (Sunday), and I thought I handled the situation well and really played well (Sunday) when I really needed to. And that's something I'm excited about it."
Woods won the Players for the first time since 2001 and became the fifth multiple winner at Sawgrass since the event moved to the former swamp in 1982.
He allowed the final hour to turn into a tense duel by hooking his tee shot into the water on 14 for double bogey. But his short game bailed him out to save par on 15 and make a critical birdie on 16, and he was solid on the final two holes for 2-under 70.
Woods finished at 13-under 275 for a two-shot win over Kevin Streelman (67), Jeff Maggert (70) and rookie David Lingmerth (72).
Garcia had tied Woods at 13 under with a birdie on the par-5 16th. Standing on the 17th tee, he stared across to the island green to watch Woods make his par. It was all downhill for Garcia from there.
His six dropped shots over the last two holes left him at 4-over 76 for the day and 7 under for the tournament.
"It's always nice to have a chance at beating the No. 1 player in the world, but unfortunately for me, I wasn't able to this week," Garcia said.
Woods was in the scoring trailer when he watched on TV as Lingmerth missed a long birdie putt on 18 that would have forced a playoff. It raced by the cup, and Lingmerth three-putted for bogey. "How about that?" Woods said to his caddie, Joe LaCava, as he hugged him.
Given their public sniping at each other over the weekend, it was only fitting that Garcia had the best chance to beat Woods.
Their dispute started Saturday when Garcia, playing with Woods, complained in a TV interview that his shot from the par-5 second fairway was disrupted by cheers from the crowd around Woods, who was about 50 yards away in the trees and fired them up by taking a fairway metal out of his bag. He said Woods should have been paying attention, and it became a war of words the next two days.
"Not real surprising that he's complaining about something," Woods said.
"At least I'm true to myself," Garcia retorted.
After rain delayed the third round, Garcia and Woods were among eight players who had to finish Sunday morning. After completing the round in a three-way tie for the lead with Woods and Lingmerth at 11-under 205, Garcia said of Woods, "I'm not going to lie. He's not my favorite guy to play with. He's not the nicest guy on tour.''
Woods had the last word. He had the trophy.
Garcia approached No. 17 tied with Tiger Woods for the lead at 13 under. Two holes and 13 shots later, he was six strokes back.
Par-3 17: First shot lands in water. Decides to play third shot from tee; shot hits bank short of island green, bounces into water. Result: quadruple bogey.
Par-4 18: Tee shot goes into lake left of fairway. Result: double bogey.
. Fast facts
. The Players Championship win is Tiger Woods' fourth of the year. The only other time he has had four wins before June 1, in 2000, he won the next four majors.
. This is the fastest Woods has won four tournaments in a year, winning in six starts. His previous fastest was in 10 starts by May 28, 2000.
. This is Woods' seventh PGA Tour win in the past two seasons. Nobody else has more than four (Rory McIlroy).
. Woods, 37, won for the 78th time, pulling within four wins of Sam Snead's tour-record 82. Snead won his 78th at age 46.
Source: ESPN, CBS